In the spirit of the holiday I am reposting this one from several years ago. I liked it then, and I still like it now. Happy 4th, everyone.
Usually Maggie Walton would go down the block with her best friend, Ross Little, and the rest of the neighborhood gang to watch the big Forth of July parade proceed down Jefferson. After the parade they would head for the annual Freedom Fest Picnic and spend hours on rides and playing carnival games. Ring toss was her favorite. Then home for barbecue with the Littles, and the big fireworks display, which they could see just fine from their own back yard.
None of that would happen today. Well, maybe the barbecue and fireworks, since they were enjoyed from home. But nothing else. Maggie was grounded.
An hour before the start of the parade her father sternly reminded Maggie that she was not to leave the premises. At nine o’clock she wandered out to the front yard and stood at the very corner of their lot, to peer down the half block towards Jefferson, where the crowd was gathering. Neighbors and friends passed by on the sidewalk and she declined several invitations to join them. She was surprised that her grounding was not common knowledge, and somewhat deflated in that realization.
By nine-fifteen she could hear the distant thrum of the marching band, and the occasional scream of the siren from the old red fire truck that lead the parade. Soon she could pick out the tune the band was playing, and she saw the crowd tighten along the curb as people vied for better views. Now the music was loud and clear. The band was passing, blasting out Semper Fidelis, and for the most part stayed in tune. She could see the broad shining throats of the tubas swinging in step above the heads of the crowd that otherwise blocked her view. The band passed, followed by a parade of cars and pickup trucks which she could not see, though she could see groups of people drift by, standing and waving to the crowd from the backs of those pickups. Some were in costumes of various kinds: old man Heinz done up as Abe Lincoln, a few veterans, assorted throw backs from history, but mostly just plain old townsfolk waving energetically to their fellow citizens.
Her attention peeked a little, then her spirits sank even more when the truck carrying the VIPs passed. The mayor waved magnanimously, as several volunteers tossed candy into the crowd. Kids, for the most part, surged forward to snatch up as much of the sweets as they could. Maggie would end up with none of it. She sat down on the curb, dejected.
After a bit she became aware that people were passing by, now heading home. The parade was over, and the crowd was breaking up. She turned and saw Mr. and Mrs. Feldon passing behind her. She returned their nod politely. Then Ross came rushing up the street, holding his shirt like a basket. He spotted her, and veered over to where she sat. He plopped down beside her and dumped the contents of his improvised basket onto the grass between them.
“It was a great parade, Maggie,” he puffed, still catching his breath. “Too bad you couldn’t come.” He looked at the candy and nodded. “I got candy for both of us. Even steven.”
“No kidding?” She sat up with brighter spirits.
“Sure. It’s my fault you got grounded. Well sort of.” He had lured her away from her chores last Saturday, after all.
They began to split up the candy 50/50, each taking a turn at picking what they wanted. It was mostly unbranded bulk stuff, but there were a few bite sized candy bars, which got picked rather quickly. They were in the midst the divvying up process when they became aware of someone standing in front of them.
Brian McMartin stood just off the curb in the street, at their feet. He looked down at them, a contemptuous smile on his face. “Giving your girl friend some candy, Ross?” he taunted.
“Shut up, Brian,” Ross growled.
“Why don’t you kiss her?” Brian gibed.
“Just go away!” Maggie urged, shaking her head in disgust.
Brain took a step closer, looming threateningly over Ross. “Who’s going to make me? Little Ross?”
Ross jumped to his feet, spilling his candy on the curb. Brian gave him a slight shove before he had steadied himself and Ross fell over in a sprawl. He scrambled to his feet again, but not before Maggie was standing in front of Brian, fists clenched and ready to fight.
“Oh, so your girl friend does your fighting for you, huh, Little Ross?” Brain cackled.
Before Ross could shove Maggie aside Mr. Walton stepped out of the front door and began to fiddle with the garden hose. He casually looked over to the kids. “Morning Ross. Brian. How was the parade?”
Brian suddenly needed to check his shoe laces and muttered some inaudible reply as he bent to attend to them. Mr. Walton pulled on the hose to line the sprinkler up so that it would reach the garden under the bay window. By the time he looked up again Brian was gone, wandering off down the street. He gave Maggie a wink, looked up at the clear sky, and said, “Fine day, isn’t it?”
© 2009, 2013 by J. M. Strother – all rights reserved.